Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moonbat Logic

I don't particularly enjoy talking about the antiwar movement, because antiwar activists aren't seriously engaged in the debate over what's best for Iraq and the United States. Their childish tactics and ridiculous sloganeering don't deserve any attention. But Linda Milazzo at the Huffington Post has an article that gave me a moment to reflect on what it means to be a hero.

"Every American who opposes the immoral wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and fears an encore on Iran, owes a heart-felt thanks to Desiree Fairooz for placing herself in the cross hairs for peace."

Nearly everyone has seen the picture of Fairooz waving her hands at the Secretary of State. Antiwar activists celebrate her courage in a display that has become known as "speaking truth to power." These activists hold that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, and regard Fairooz as a patriot who "put herself in the cross hairs" to get her message out.

If going to a public hearing with a fleet of people who support you, and racking up a misdemeanor for waving makeup-stained hands at the administration's top diplomat counts as putting oneself in the crosshairs, then the acts of people like Paul Ray Smith and Michael P. Murphy are nothing short of walking through the gates of Hell.

Putting oneself in the crosshairs is not done at a house hearing by risking a possible felony assault charge, then going free. Which brings us to a fundamental truth about the antiwar movement: they do not understand the meaning of sacrifice. They don't know what it is, how to do it, or what qualifies as bravery.

No doubt they are acting on their convictions, and that's great, but their skewed view of heroism lends some understanding to their skewed view of reality. When you count risking an improbable criminal charge as a death-defying act of heroism, it stands to reason that the rest of your perceptions are off by a factor of ten as well. Let's test that theory. From Linda Milazzo:

"If only it were illegal to use the people's airwaves to purposely LIE TO THE PEOPLE!!

For the nation's peacemakers - the silenced heroes who defend the Constitution - there are no delusions of an honorable mainstream media."

Calling for the curtailment of the First Amendment in one breath and then pretending to be a defender of the Constitution in the next? The theory holds here. Another example might be if she accuses the Media of being in cahoots with the administration in one breath, and then lauds the work of a mainstream media outlet in another. Wouldn't that be something:

"A huge thank you to photographer Charles Dharapak and to the Associated Press for letting the truth be told..." "There are no corporate broadcasters openly sympathetic to protesters on the air. How can they be - if they are ONE with the government?! How can they be - if consolidating media means dismantling any challenge to power?"
If you read my last post on Karbala, you'll see that FOX, CNN, ABC, and CBS all got their stories on Karbala from the AP. Yet somehow AP is noble and righteous and yadda yadda, while these other four networks are chock full o' crap. Theory holds for a third time.

I'd love to see peace just as much as the next guy, I really would. But the world is not so simple as fake blood on a delusional protester's hands, and the AP photographer named in the story wasn't the only one to get a picture.
Pretty sure that's not what heroism looks like.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Iraqis Take Back Karbala, MSM Is Nowhere In Sight.

On Monday in Iraq, the province of Karbala was handed over to Iraqi security forces. This is the eighth of the eighteen Iraqi provinces. If you haven't heard about it, that isn't any surprise. For the four big media outlets (ABC, CNN, FOX, and CBS) this news is attached to a story about a suicide bomber who rode a bicycle into some ISF recruits, killing about 28 of them. This happened in Ba'qubah. Now, on to why this is ridiculous.

According to Google Earth, Ba'qubah is about 30 miles north of Baghdad, in Diyala province. The northern edge of Karbala province is, at an absolute minimum, 40 miles south of Baghdad. The provinces of Karbala and Diyala do not touch at any point; by the shortest straight line, they are separated by Babil and Baghdad.

What is that? That is over 70 miles of spin. That has to be some kind of record.

At CBS, the news about the Karbala handover is attached to the bottom of the Bicycle Bomber story in an "other developments" section. It receives a token quote from al-Maliki, and then this sentence:

"In southern Iraq, meanwhile, the U.S. military turned over security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities in the mainly Shiite province of Karbala, the eighth of the nation's 18 provinces to revert to Iraqi control."

At ABC, the handover story is given the exact same sentence on the second of three pages of Bicycle Bomber story, that has been mixed with the Captured Sheikhs story. It also features the exact same quote from al-Maliki.

At CNN, the coverage is still attached to the Islamic Lance Armstrong story, but relative to the previous two sources, the coverage is fantastic, even if it comes after a slew of minor stories about low-intensity violence. The story actually gets several sentences.

How about our right-wing-hate-machine friends at FOX? The story actually has its own headline, even if it's a head on a stick; three sentences about the handover before diving into pedal-powered jihad. That's what makes them right wing, those bastards. How dare they put the good news first. Even if they got their story from the AP, just like literally everyone else listed so far.

What about the BBC? They've mixed the story in so completely with the al-Qaeda Courier story that it's actually a chore to separate the two. My favorite, unbiased excerpt from this story? Right here:

"Violence levels falling

Police said the bomber had arrived at the scene of the Baquba attack on a bicycle dressed in civilian clothes concealing a suicide belt."

Falling violence subtitle, then right into our Iraqi X-Games contestant again. So where do they mention the falling violence? At the end of the damn article:

"But our correspondent says levels of violence have generally been falling since a US troop surge began in February."

So where does one go to get actual information? To paraphrase the creepy yet appropriate sentiment of Jim Jones, "come to me my babies, let me quell your pain."

According to, there have been 37 coalition deaths in Karbala province over the entire duration of the war. As far as violence goes, its in the top 3 of the most violent of the least violent (not a typo, read that twice). If there are three general tiers of violence in Iraq, Karbala is toward the top of the bottom rung.

According to, the population density is about average for an Iraqi province with a major city in it, so we also can't chalk up the lack of fatalities to a lack of people. According to 2002 numbers, the city of Karbala proper contains about 550,000 residents alone. Handing over half a million Iraqis into Iraqi care isn't a small deal, even if Karbala is a small province.

Karbala is being handed to the ISF from the 3rd Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch. More information on their presence in Iraq and Karbala province is, predictably, available at

In an interview at in July, Maj. Gen. Lynch had this to say about the ISF units that he would be handing Karbala to:

"We also need the best effort of the Iraqi security forces. By the way, I sense that they're getting better every day. In my battlespace, I deal with two Iraqi army divisions: the 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 8th Iraqi Army Division. And those division commanders are competent, capable military professionals who are Iraqis. They're not Shi'a; they're not Sunni. They're Iraqis, and their enemy is anybody that's against Iraq. And they've got competent subordinate commanders as well."

According to this older story from USA Today, a key quote from Lynch implies that he's also been embracing the idea of the awakening councils and the concerned citizens groups, which has been a major part of the security progress in Anbar and elsewhere:

"If you've got folks who say, 'Hey, this is my hometown, and I'm tired of the violence and if you simply train and equip me, I'll protect my hometown.' We ought to jump on that like a duck on a June bug."

Ultimately, I'd give the mainstream media a giant red "FAIL" on this one. Some idiot at AP got paid to print essentially no information at all, and tack it onto the end of a blood story. AP sold it to the big four American news outlets, who swallowed it without any evaluation whatsoever. Somebody is drinking Kool-Aid, and if it isn't obvious to you, I want you to wear a tinfoil hat so I know who you are.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Turn

"Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called 'The Pledge'. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called 'The Turn'. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call 'The Prestige.'"
-- Cutter, "The Prestige"

The media has been awfully quiet on Iraq lately, with the exception of the diplomacy taking place between Iraq and Turkey over the PKK terrorists (they're not "rebels" just because they're Kurds, dammit). Talk of violence trends in the major media outlets is close to nonexistent. The Nation waxes nostalgic about the last time it had something right (2003) and how nobody appreciates depressing leftist books anymore. And as the blood that brings in the money for anti-war media outlets stops flowing, they turn their attention to the money that's been stopping the blood. Perhaps to phrase this more diplomatically, they're simply playing their strong suit. Which isn't death and mayhem anymore.

They need something to scare people into believing them. Declining casualties isn't scary, but 2.7 Trillion for two wars in progress is, even if the money provides the armor, weapons, aid, and operational tempo that are yielding the results. but they don't tell you that second part.

So is the coercive diplomacy being exercised against Iran, when one ignores how breathtakingly dumb a strike against Iran would be. But they don't mention that second part.

Another scary thing is a Turkish invasion of Iraq that is extremely unlikely to happen, as neither country has anything to gain from an escalation. But they don't mention that second part.

When and where things are going well for the American effort in Iraq, they are also going well for the Iraqis. When this happens, the press tries to make it disappear. They entertain you with something else until they can bring it back. That's what you're witnessing now: the turn. They're showing you something else, heavily modified, to distract you from the trick they're playing on you.

All things considered, the people who parrot these tricks don't remind me of any particular magician. But they do bring another interesting person to mind.

"With numbing regularity good people were seen to knuckle under the demands of authority and perform actions that were callous and severe. Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority."
-- Stanley Milgram

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Press Plays Racquetball: Iraq Spin

Comedian Brian Regan once said that "racquetball is the only sport where you can simultaneously be looking at the ball, and have it hit you in the back of the head." While I realize that reporting the news isn't a game (technically), I have to admit to seeing spin on recent stories about Iraq that would rival the english on a Minnesota Fats cue ball.

Most heinously is this number, where a Yahoo writer manages to - you guessed it - find the downside of Iraqis not dying so often. The headline says it all: "As Violence Falls in Iraq, Cemetery Workers Feel The Pinch." If deaths are up, tell everyone that deaths are up. If deaths are down, hit them in the back of the head with a racquetball.

Then there's this WaPo story, picked up by one of the Kossacks, apparently without reading the whole thing. The Kosling latches immediately onto the idea that the Shiites are now more dangerous than ever, and that we're stuck in a quagmire. A more thorough reading of the same story reveals an important quote, that apparently has been spun so far out of proportion as to be unrecognizable.

"'As the Sunni insurgents quit fighting us, the problems we have with criminality and other militia, many of them Shia, become relatively more important,' said a U.S. Embassy official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not finalized."

The key word here, that the left above all people should recognize, is "relatively." This language does not indicate a rise in violence or the absolute growth of a problem, or even a surge in any criminal or insurgent activity. It only says that the Shiite actors are now more problematic than the Sunnis because the Sunnis are less of a problem. If Petraeus and Crocker are saying anything, they're saying that with some of the Sunni issues in hand, they can begin to focus more on Shi'ia issues.

I'm not sure how this could be more clear to the champions of "cultural relativity," but yet they still attempt to crash that little blue ball into your occipital lobe while you're staring right at it.

Embedded journalist Michael Yon's latest dispatch vents some frustration on the matter as well.

"Anyone who has been in Iraq for longer than a few months, visited a handful of provinces, and spoken with a good number of Iraqis, likely would acknowledge that the reality here is complex and dynamic. But in the last six months it also has been increasingly hopeful, despite what the pessimistic dogma dome allows Americans and British to believe."

You should read the whole thing, but the "dogma dome" Yon is talking about is palpable for those of us who are paying attention. And even those who aren't paying attention but manage to read about the hardships of cemetery workers.

To me, it seems that ridiculous leaps of logic like that are an extension of the front against the progress that Petraeus explained in September; casualties had trended down significantly. Not only did they trend down significantly, but during Ramadan, violence actually dropped; a first since 2003. The press and certain politicians said that accepting these truths required a "willing suspension of disbelief." The defeatists at Moveon launched a smear ad against the general. But the facts spoke for themselves.

We might be seeing the same exact thing beginning to ramp up again as October draws to a close. According to, there were 64 US Military deaths and 848 ISF or Civilian deaths at the end of September. With less than 10 days to go in October, there are only 28 US Military deaths and 474 ISF or Civilian deaths. The trend appears to be continuing.

Viewed one month at a time, these numbers are encouraging (but no doubt, the leaders on the ground are taking things much slower than that). Which is why I suspect the MSM is reaching so far; they know bad news sells, and they might not have as much at the end of this month.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Asia Times Says What?

There seems to be some confusion as to whether certain new political developments in Iraq are a help or a hindrance to the American effort. This confusion is very apparent at the Asia Times, where Pepe Escobar says its bad news, and Sami Moubayed says its good news.

The event in question here is the recent uniting of Moqtada al Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al Hakim under the blessing of Ali al Sistani. The key considerations here:

1) al Sadr and al Hakim have been kinetic enemies for the last 4 years; they seem to be setting this rivalry aside.
2) This merger is widely believed to be the creation of a new Iraqi Nationalist bloc.
3) Should this alliance work out, it will effectively merge the Mahdi Army (al Sadr's militia) and the Badr Brigade (al Hakim's militia).
4) al Hakim is backed by the US as well as Iran (which seems odd).
5) While al Sadr and al Hakim do not agree on the role of US forces, they do agree that AQI is a mutual enemy.
6) This new bloc is unified under a plan that denounces foreign interference (by all actors, not just the US) and the right to armed resistance to occupation forces.

Exactly what this means to US interests in Iraq does not seem to be entirely clear. About the exact same thing, the two authors have these opening statements:

Pepe: "The ultimate nightmare for White House/Pentagon designs on Middle East energy resources is not Iran after all: it's a unified Iraqi resistance, comprising not only Sunnis but also Shi'ites."

Sami: "Good news came from Iraq this weekend - the best news for the US, probably, since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by a US air strike in June 2006."

There's no debate as to the facts of what's happening, as outlined above. However, over the course of his article, Pepe seems to be putting a preponderance of importance on the fact that this new bloc reserves the right to armed resistance, whereas Sami seems to believe that the alliance itself, along with al Sadr's 6-month stand-down of the Mahdi army, carries more importance.

I would suggest that at this point, the right to armed resistance has been exercised constantly but hasn't really been enumerated; even Sunni actors that are currently cooperating with the American forces accept that their cooperation is a means to an end of American presence. They may still want to kill us, but not right at this moment. As with all handshake-COM deals that Petraeus endorses in FM 3-24, there is going to be more ambiguity than might be comfortable.

As far as a union between the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade, this seems to be a mixed bag given al Sadr's opportunistic tendencies. But there's simply no way that al Hakim isn't aware of those tendencies, so he must have taken them into account. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has also given his blessing to this pact, which may suggest that this truce between the two is genuine.

There's a gap in whether this is good or bad news, and the gap looks to be centered around what a surge in Iraqi nationalism means in the context of this potential merger. Those who thing that the Americans are championing a soft partition suggest that this is a bad thing, as it bespeaks a rejection of that very principle. But that's nothing that the Iraqis haven't made clear already: they categorically do not want to be partitioned.

On the other side of the debate are those who see a unified and independent Iraqi state as a necessity, and the current goal of the American effort. A rise in nationalism and the creation of a powerful nationalist party would in this case be an excellent thing, even if it would be nice if the militias weren't attached to it.

However, in all of these considerations, it is worth noting that Pepe Escobar is described as an "extreme traveler," while Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and analyst.

Ultimately whether this is good news or bad news is largely dependent upon how the American effort reacts to it. Tolerating al Sadr is not high on my list of things to do, but a stable, unified and free Iraq trumps everything else.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Nation On Iraqi Nationalism

UPDATE: James Robbins at NRO talks about partition as well.

I've decided that I need to set my sights a little higher, as there's little to no potential for progress or enlightenment in reading and dismantling posts from total moonbats. Today in The Nation, Robert Dreyfuss discusses the new rise of Iraqi nationalism, where it came from, and where it may go politically.

I'm going to start off by saying that Dreyfuss gets one thing absolutely, completely, and in all ways backwards when he says this:

"It may be too much to hope for, but just as the United States finally decided to join the Sunni tribal resistance forces rather than fight them, it's possible that farsighted US officials would be willing to work with Sadr rather than confront him, too."

Hold up a minute there, Chief. The US didn't join the Sunni forces, the Sunnis co-opted the Americans. We've been fighting to maintain or achieve security the whole time; it wasn't until recently that they joined us, finally realizing that we're not the demons their Imams said we were. This is an important clarification because policy needs to be based on facts like this. This is not a potato/potatoe situation here, for two reasons; first, "potatoe" is just plain wrong, dammit; and second, the tribes approaching us and asking for help is not the same as us approaching them. It is diplomatically and strategically different. We've been trying to bring them to the table for years; it wasn't until AQI got too aggressive that they decided to come to us.

More to the point, Dreyfuss pins the surge in Iraqi nationalism on a few key events: the "misguided" (his word; I say "idiotic") attempt by the US Senate to officially recommend that Iraq be partitioned, the currently unresolved controversial incident at Nisour Square, and a Kurdish extralegal oil deal. My response to his argument is, "what the hell are you talking about?"

It defies logic to suggest that a nation would attempt to build its national identity around a massacre, a swindle, and the politicking of the idiot fringe of another nation. These all may be unifying events, but unity itself is not nationalism. Try to remember that they were united in abject fear under Saddam; it would be daft to suggest that particular unity was indicative of nationalism. Unity is only part of the picture. To be effective, unity has to be met with narrative to foster a solid, positive identity. And I believe the Iraqis are doing exactly that, but not around the events that Dreyfuss mentions.

The Anbar Awakening - and now, the Diyala and Salah ad Din Awakening, as well - are home-grown movements led by extremely charismatic individuals against an enemy that is as close to an Orc that anyone will ever see outside Middle Earth. They are unequivocally, abjectly evil. And those individuals who lead common people into battle against them are known as heroes. Those people give a nation a narrative, and an example to follow.

Iraqis are uniting behind heroes like the late Sheikh Abdul Sattar abu Risha, who founded the Anbar Awakening. Or soldiers like Lieutenant Hamid of the Iraqi Army, who tells AQI to come to Sadr City and look for him. And only the world's worst Europhobe would be able to deny the unifying qualities of a soccer team that can win. This may all seem like a sugar glaze on a bad situation to you. In that case, so were Lexington and Concord. The same could be said about Audie Murphy. The same could then be said about the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers. See where I'm going with this?

The jury is still out on what particular aspect of the change in grand strategy has led to the progress on the ground. Frankly, warfare mixed with politics is more confusing than the most advanced science, because there are no rules. That said, some things should be obvious: the Iraqis are not building an identity based on what happened at Nisour Square any more than Americans were defined by 9/11. Unity and a sense of identity are very different things, and both are part of the Iraqi reconstruction efforts.

Concluding on a totally contradictory point, Dreyfuss asserts that this rising nationalism is actually bad for the administration's intentions for Iraq:

"...nationalists would be the least willing to accommodate the preferred American goal of an Iraq that is at once docile, neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict, tolerant of a long-term US presence, willing to serve as a base for US military operations in the region and ready to hand over their oil wealth to Western investors."

Suggesting that a partitioned Iraq is the goal of the administration because it will be stable and pro-American is like saying you want a see-saw because it doesn't wobble around. A partitioned Iraq would not be strong enough to withstand forces from external actors like Iran and Saudi Arabia, or internal actors like the power-hungry opportunist Al Sadr. The US hasn't been siding with "separatists" because it desires a partitioned and inherently unstable nation in control of our foreign oil supply. The US has been siding with minorities because we're dealing with third-world politics, where the minorities are massacred when politicians fail.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Embarrassing Drop by Left Fielder

I realize that I spend too much time harping on them, but the Fielders have constructed a rhetorical argument against... Well, nobody knows really, that apparently denies the existence of time itself. Then it gets interesting.

Kyle Moore suggests that the surge is simply an empty slogan and isn't actually working (more accurately, that it has failed even if it's only been a year). Moore makes this assertion despite statistical evidence that says he's wrong.

Of course the common-sense line that you will hear about that data is that it is attributable to Iraqis taking initiative. That line is used as a matter of politics; the users don't want any credit going to anyone outside their party. Let those people politicize. They can win the argument so long as we win the war. I'm happy as long as the reduction isn't because we're running out of people to kill.

He goes on to explain that while perhaps the US is interested in reconciliation (of course), that Iraqi politicians don't see it the same way. And its here that Moore drops the ball, because the quote he offers does so much more than weakly support his point:

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

“Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself,” he said. “You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that ‘I want to reconcile with you.’ “

While Moore draws a very basic conclusion from this quote - and one that supports his own politics - he misses the larger point of what it really sounds like Hamoudi is saying. Sure, he's saying that its more than a slogan. But I'd expect a 5th-grader to pick up on that.

Hamoudi is that the focus should be on cleaning up the Iraqi government so it can build legitimacy; a long term goal for everyone and a recognized problem across the board, current administration and military leadership included. If you want proof of that, I'll point you to FM 3-24 and the Independent Commission on Iraq report. Both are in the Required Reading list.

What's even more interesting is how Hamoudi says what he did. In a nutshell, he's clearly trying to say that if you want to win, in this case you have to keep your eyes off the prize, stop trying to force it, and focus on getting the underlying problems taken care of. When you can do that, reconciliation will occur naturally. And that's going to take time. Civil rights in the US weren't won in four years, we'd be stupid to expect it to happen in Iraq today - where Baghdad is under Shiite control for the first time since 1534. Still think Johnny Reb holds a wicked grudge for what Sherman did to Georgia?

At any rate, I'm actually encouraged by Hamoudi's statement, because it lets me know that someone there in a position of power has their head screwed on straight and knows what the problem is and is willing to work at it, in the knowledge that it won't happen overnight but that it still needs to happen. That's a position that I simply don't see in the political wings of America, right (pushing for partition) or left (pushing for withdrawal).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Waxman: The Democrats' Bearded Lady

The chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Henry Waxman, has been spending a lot of time in the spotlight lately. He's brought the owner of Blackwater USA to a hearing (apparently to discuss DOS and DOD policy, oddly enough), written nasty letters to the Department of State, and even brought the Deputy Secretary of State into his little sideshow.

So what is it that might let one know that instead of doing actual work, Waxman is trying to drum up support for the Democrats? Well, exchanges like this from the hearing with Blackwater USA owner Eric Prince:

"Why are we privatising our military to an organisation that has been aggressive and in some cases reckless in the handling of their duties?" asked New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney.

Mr Prince said Blackwater had taken firm action against the guard. He was fined and fired.

"But we, as a private organisation, can't do any more," he said. "We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him."

The idiocy of asking the owner of a private enterprise a question about government policy is quite remarkable, unless...

Unless they only asked the question to score political capital, which is exactly what Waxman is doing in all cases. Even his hearing on Iraqi government corruption isn't news (which some republican representatives on the committee point out), and it is an ongoing issue that MNF-I and the Iraqi Government are working to correct. So what does Waxman really want to know? An exchange between himself and the Deputy Secretary of State Larry Butler make it pretty clear:

"Waxman laughed and asked, 'An appropriate setting for positive things is a congressional hearing, but for negative things, it must be behind closed doors?'

'As you know, this goes to the very heart of diplomatic relations and national security,' Butler said.

'It goes to the very heart of propaganda,' Waxman said..."

And there it is.

There's no doubt in my mind that Waxman understands why Butler can't say those things in public, and there's no doubt in Butler's mind either. Everyone there knows they can't talk about those things in public because it may damage our diplomatic relationship with the government we're trying to work with to remove that corruption. Airing problems in public would be detrimental to that relationship, and they both know it. Waxman is doing everything he can to make the administration look bad in an effort to prop up the democrats. This is politics, not policy.

He's playing whack-a-mole, but he gets to control where the moles pop up. Easiest game in the world.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Mick Arran Thinks You're A Nazi

Over at Comments from Left Field, Mick Arran has a post that attempts to liken the US population at large to the Germans who were complicit with the government of Nazi Germany.

His basis for this claim? Americans obey rules, for one:

“The Germans are an orderly nation, a nation that believes in rules. It was against the rules to disobey the government.”

Well, so are we. Travel writer Bill Bryson was born in Iowa but spent the first 20 years of his adult life in England. When he returned to the States to live after his long exile, one of the first things he noticed was the almost Germanic American addiction to following rules. He noted, partly in shock and partly with amusement, that the hotel in which he and his family stayed the first few days of their return had an indoor swimming pool and on the walls in several prominent places were placed rules for the use of the pool - 23 of them - and they were vigorously enforced by the lifeguards. He couldn’t imagine such a thing happening in Britain.

Never mind that America was based on the principle of Rule of Law instead of the rule of a man. Apparently, this philosophy - that America pioneered - is evidence that we now abide by the rule of one man: Bushitler. This is an awfully interesting logical jump.

In another section, he explains in traditional, tired anti-government speech that we are all forced to abide by our government out of fear that they might arrest us or send us to Git'mo.

They have thrown innocent men and women into torture camps in Cuba and elsewhere, but most of them are foreigners and we’re not, so we keep our mouths shut.

Well, lets consider that for a moment. Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay houses about 650 detainees. Seems significant, right? Seems like, statistically speaking, if you say something bad about the government you're going to get send there so fast your head will spin, right? Because its happening all around you, right?

The prison camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau killed a minimum of 2.5 million people. Its purpose was unequivocally to exterminate people.

How many executions have taken place at Guantanamo? How many furnaces do they have to burn the bodies of the untermensch? How many are being starved against their will and worked to death? How many have been warehoused with the sole purpose of the decimation of their race?

Oh yeah. None, none, none, and none. Someone is engaging in fearmongering. But its not the same people who are telling you about this, or this, or even allowing you to hear about things like this. I'm perplexed as to how our government is stifling dissent by encouraging dissent against that exact thing that Mick thinks Bushitler is.

Who exactly is marketing fear, at this point? The left or the right?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Obey the Ventriloquist

Forgive me for sounding skeptical, but I somehow doubt that Rep. Obey has our best interests in mind when he says this kind of thing:
"And if you don't like the cost, then shut down the war."
My home-state representative obviously has some ideological wires crossed here.

Representative Obey, if your intent is to offset the cost of the war with a tax increase, I'm not the first to say that I most definitely support that. We should sacrifice, we should put the money down where its needed, and we shouldn't leave our kids (or your kids, so in effect, me) holding the bill for it. That said...

Its obvious through your partisan posturing that you have exactly no intent whatsoever of creating any kind of support - monetary or otherwise - for a war that you don't personally agree with. You have no intention of allowing any bills out of committee if those bills don't include a few pages worth of pander to the democratic dogma that defines your base.

So why would I, even for a second, imagine that you're trying to raise money for the war?

Mr. Obey, please stop trying to make Iraq fail. This is more important than your next election. If the consensus among reasonable people is that an American withdrawal would be disastrous, then the only thing to do is to get behind this war effort and push as hard as you can, with every tool you have, to get the right things done.

Our goals should not be divergent along party lines at this point. We should be trying as Americans to do what our sacred honor demands, mindful of the financial cost and mindful of the human cost of doing so. Honor demands that we deliver on our promises - whether you yourself participated in making them or not - that we will help the Iraqi people win their liberty.

Log your objections to the war if you must. When you're done, start making this effort a bipartisan one so we don't hurt future generations by letting party politics interfere with what is incontrovertibly, unequivocally right: rebuilding Iraq so a free nation can begin it's life.

To do this, we need the funds to run the operations that to date have been meeting with success. We need funds to ensure that our soldiers are protected from their enemies in the course of their duties. We need funds to provide medical care to the wounded. We need funds so that our soldiers can continue to bring the Iraqis up to speed. Taking away the money will not stop this war. It will only kill soldiers and damage our efforts by alienating our soldiers from the Iraqis they are working so hard to protect and teach.

If we need to, lets create a tax so that this nation can be at war together, and so that we will have the funds we need to do a good job. Let's pay for it now so our kids don't pay for it later. But how dare you suggest that we pay, then say from the other side of your mouth that you won't let this money get to where it needs to go.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Statistics 101

There's a lot of buzz today about violent deaths in Iraq trending down since last month. Encouraging as it is, I'm not about to get too excited about it because when this trend is put in context, its not as conclusive as we should all hope it to be.

As much as I would love to attribute this decline to Petraeus and his new counterinsurgent strategy, I don't really know that that's the case here. When viewed on a longer timeline, is becomes clear that this is the most recent dip in what has historically been a cycle.

Perhaps more misleading are reports that this month's Iraqi civilian deaths have been cut by more than half. Not misleading because the reports aren't true, mind you. They are. However, most people should recall one particular incident from August that makes that month a statistical outlier; a bombing in Qahtaniya that killed about 500 Iraqi civilians.

Again, not that the trend hasn't been down. Not that anyone is lying when they tell you casualties were lower in September than August, they're absolutely right. However, they're right in part because Iraq's most deadly bombing occurred in August.

So in the interest of more accurate data, let's remove that outlier by taking 500 civilian deaths off of the August tally. This gives us a total for August of about 1,475 recorded civilian deaths (1,975-500). September's total? 922 recorded civilian deaths. So the drop is much more like 37% instead of 53%, if we're interested in using these statistics to give us magnitude as well as direction.

No doubt about it, this is still a very positive figure and no doubt the people in charge - Gen. Petraeus and his staff - know much more than we do and know what the trends are better than we do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm delighted to hear that casualties are down. I'm positively thrilled. But I'm also reserving judgment until the data is more conclusive.